PART THREE– Israel to Bernalillo (cont.)
On one of the few times we stayed at the Henderson Lake Campground in Lethbridge that year of 1981, a remarkable thing happened. A young fellow came driving a beater half-ton pickup into the Exhibition Park at the north entrance, as we sat by our trailer watching, on the other side of the fence from him. He did a couple of power turns just inside the entrance, spraying out gravel and dust, and out of his box flew a rimmed tire.
The tire rolled a fair distance and came to rest against the chain link fence, right beside us. The longhaired, unkempt fellow stopped, clumsily got out of his truck, looked in the box, got back in the truck, and took off farther into the grounds.
What landed right next to us was a 16-inch tire on a split rim, matching, even in tread pattern, the one we had lost. I thought, “Wow! The Lord has restored my tire!” I went around the fence and brought it back to the trailer.
But then I knew the right thing to do was to return the lost goods to its owner. I argued some with myself, thinking, “He deserves losing it, doing what he was doing, the hooligan! Besides, how do I know I can find him?” But I knew I should try.
I tossed the tire in my truck, drove into the grounds, and sadly enough, I found him. There he was, and he was drunk. I gave him the tire, saying, “I think this is yours. You lost it at the gate.” He took it, without a word of gratitude, almost as though I owed him.
I was somewhat disgusted and thought he deserved to lose the tire even more than I originally thought. I went back, thinking the Lord tried giving me my tire back, and I blew it in my self-righteousness.
As soon as I got back to our trailer, the Lord said to me, “As you have returned to another that which he has lost, so I will restore to you that which you have lost.”
I marveled at the circumstances and at the words I heard. Then I realized that if I had, with rationalization and apparent justification, kept that tire, I would have blown receiving the restoration of what I had lost, which was so much more than a tire. I breathed a sigh of relief and thankfulness.
Throughout all these years, I was in a constant state of flux, wondering who I was and what I should be doing. I was lost, searching, wandering, and wondering. One idea of particular interest to me was problem-solving. I imagined people having what they considered to be insoluble problems, no matter the nature. I imagined them not knowing who to talk to or where to go with those problems. I thought of offering my services to solve any problem imaginable.
That may sound arrogant and presumptuous, but I believed there was no such thing as a problem that couldn’t be solved. Indeed, problems existed because there were solutions for them, not because there weren’t. I still believe that. If I couldn’t solve the problem, I’d find someone who could.
I recognized the adventure and excitement of such an occupation, but I also realized potential challenges. Problems could be bizarre. I could receive calls from some rascally, if not very dangerous, demented people, if I were to advertise myself as one to solve any problem, no matter what it might be.
These thoughts danced in my head, in and out, for a few years. Little did I know that one day this would be my calling, and not only so, but with great success, though it wouldn’t be as I imagined.
It was mid-October and trailering season was closing down. Our present problem was still with us, however. What were we to do? Where were we to go? We didn’t know. I thought we were supposed to live in southern Alberta, but nothing turned up for us; it seemed out of place. So we decided to head back to Winnipeg.
By the time we arrived, there was only one campground still available – Tinkertown. The owner was Johnny Copchuk, who had just recently purchased it at a distress price. He had been a successful tire dealer in Regina, told us some interesting stories, and offered me a job, which offer I pondered for some moments, but didn’t have the leading to accept.
Johnny told us a story about how a tire manufacturer once gave him a super deal on tires for a very low price. They were blemished but otherwise perfectly fine for use. Johnny put out large full-page ads in the newspaper, advertising the tires at fire sale prices. Buyers would have received an excellent bargain. The sale bombed. People suspected they were getting something inferior or defective. Not about to be defeated, he thought it over, doubled the price, and sold out.
It’s not the price; it’s the perception. It’s not just the quality; it’s the marketing.
As Johnny and I were talking at his service counter, a husky boy of about 14 years came in asking for the price of a parking spot. Johnny gave him the price, which was somewhat above average. The boy left, saying he would be right back. Returning, he said in a bit of a sour way, “The price is too much” (he had spoken to his parents, who had sent him in to investigate).
Johnny said, “Then you don’t have to stay here, do you? That’s OK; you go somewhere else.” The kid was caught off guard and was suddenly uncomfortable, and tried to insist they would take it. He apparently knew there was no other trailer campground open in the Winnipeg area that late in the season (we knew because we had checked out our options before coming there).
“No, no; you aren’t happy with the price. I want only happy, satisfied customers here,” Johnny insisted. “You need to go where you’ll be happy. Keep your money.” He refused to register them. The boy walked out chagrined.
Johnny then turned to me and said, “I tell you, it’s nice when you come to the place where you don’t need the customers’ money. It’s a good feeling! You can call the shots. If I let them stay and they don’t like the price, they’re liable to do some damage or steal something just to get their money’s worth.”
“The poor speaks humble requests, but the rich answers roughly” (Proverbs 18:23 MKJV).
The problem is that the boy wasn’t very humble in his initial approach; consequently, he and his family paid the price. Where would they go? Likely to a motel, paying considerably more.
While at Tinkertown, for some strange reason I began to develop thoughts of wishing I had pursued the prettiest girl I had ever known, Florence Yaschyshyn, when we were still in junior high and high school, particularly when she made advances toward me when we worked together on the Ukrainian Catholic Youth Club.
I thought, “What a fool and coward I was for passing that opportunity up!”
Suddenly, without any explanation, Marilyn fell quite ill. She was sinking fast, losing not only consciousness (though aware of losing it), but also losing all interest in life. Amazingly, she was quite ready to go into the next realm. I had my thoughts while I wasn’t physically with her, so there was no apparent way she could have consciously known what I was thinking.
I knew immediately what was going on. I didn’t appreciate the wife the Lord had specifically chosen for and given me, and He was taking her from me. I confessed my thoughts to Marilyn and to the Lord, apologized to her, prayed for God’s mercy for us, and soon Marilyn recovered.
She said her experience was very strange. She knew she was dying and wasn’t the least moved. Indeed, it seemed like nothing in this world mattered at all.
Who says there is no God?
Marilyn believes it was about this time and place that she had a dream, which dream caused us considerable consternation for some years until recently, primarily because we spent so much time trying to see if what it symbolized had either happened or was happening. Something one ought not to do.
The dream started with the thought that we would see or be involved with the Mediwake children, though not again with the parents. Then Marilyn saw Paul meeting up with a woman. He and the woman, while holding hands, entered a house and swiftly investigated it room by room (moving, as viewed, from right to left). They had to do it without us, while we waited for them.
The house was a large southwestern U.S. or Spanish-styled home, with an outdoor balcony on the second floor. Suddenly, Paul and the woman came out from the second floor, jumped off the balcony, and were running away. A man, presumably the owner of the property, was chasing and shooting at them from the balcony.
Paul and his companion joined us beside a large swimming pool. We were all dressed in rich fall clothing, with quality sweaters. It was needful that we should dive into the pool and swim to the other side. Halfway across, there was a narrow cement hoop underwater, through which we would have to swim.
Before jumping in, we took off our sweaters. Paul and the woman with him dove into the water without hesitation, swimming through the hoop. However, Marilyn was fearful of the cement hoop, and I had to take her by the hand so she would follow me, which she did.
After diving under water and swimming through the hoop, we came out of the pool on the other side. We raised our hands to the sky, were immediately dry, and the sweaters miraculously came onto us again. We then came to the edge of a wall or cliff, its top flush to the ground we were on. We jumped about two stories down to the ground below and continued running along a path.
At this point, there were several people on either side of the path, clapping and cheering us on. Marilyn recalls a woman in the crowd with a red sweater. Farther on, past the people, there was green grass along the path and beyond.
As we continued to run toward a green forest, the enemy that had been shooting at Paul and his companion sicced dogs on us, and they were closing in. Marilyn put out her hand, with palm down, and with spiritual power, disabled them from harming us.
Winter was returning, all campgrounds were closing down for the season, and we needed to make a move. I thought of Mike Trepanier. We called him, and he and his wife, Theresa, invited us to come and stay with them. We went to their home in St. James, Winnipeg.
Arriving there, they greeted us, gave us a spot to park our Casa Rolla, and settled us in a spare bedroom downstairs. The weather getting cold, we brought in our live houseplants, which we appreciated having in the trailer. We visited for a short while, and I was wondering why we were there and what we would now do. Marilyn and I went down to our room to settle in, clean up, and pray.
Then the Lord said to me:
“You are here because Mike has a decision to make. It is going to get rough, but stick it out to the end.”
We went back upstairs, had supper with the Trepaniers, and spoke of spiritual matters. We also spoke of what had happened to us and to Paul, the kidnapping and Dave Cohen’s madness and murderous potential, of which we were warned by God. Mike acted as though he was in awe of what had happened and appeared to support us. He often gave the impression that he was quite spiritual. All seemed okay up to the time we retired that evening, but these things must have been too much for Theresa.
When we came upstairs the next morning, Mike reported to us that Theresa was gone. We speculated that she went shopping or to see her mother, who was rather involved with them and whom they would often visit, but Mike said no, that she had strangely disappeared, taking their three- or four-year-old boy, Jezreel, with her.
Not knowing what to do, we waited. Then Theresa called. She told Mike she wouldn’t return home until we were out of their house. We were rudely surprised, wondering how in the world we had offended her.
I began to see that what the Lord had said to me was developing. We talked about it and I encouraged Mike to make a decision. Did Theresa have grounds for receiving us as guests and then suddenly, inexplicably evicting us? Was he going to let her have her way? Was he head of his house? What was the right thing for him to do? Would he turn us out for no other reason than that his wife wanted us out, without apparent justification, especially when we had nowhere to go?
Mike was increasingly nervous. The phone rang again. I answered it and a voice said, “Get out. The Cohens are coming to kill you.” The person then hung up. I recognized the voice to be that of Theresa’s mother. When I told Mike, he wouldn’t believe me. He couldn’t believe she would do such a thing.
I knew it was her, primarily because I knew her to be quite capable of such conduct, despite having only briefly met her. And I was incredulous that Mike wouldn’t believe me, though he was her son-in-law for a few years.
As we sat waiting for further developments, Mike looked out the living room window and spotted a police car parked down the street. He said the police were there watching us. I wondered why the police would be involved.
Jezreel then came to the door to fetch something from the house for his mother. Mike asked him to come in and stay. He absolutely refused, determined to obey his mother’s instructions, which were apparently to get what she wanted and not be persuaded by us in any way. Mike gave him what he asked for, and the child was gone. I was amazed at how firm a toddler’s mind could be about something in the face of his father’s apparently loving persuasion.
While Mike feigned solidarity with us, I thought I could see that he was faltering and insincere, but I wasn’t sure. Suddenly, the police and the landlord were at the door, knocking and demanding to be allowed in. We had the door locked and wouldn’t unlock it, thinking it was some kind of trick. What were we afraid of? What could or would they do? And why?
The police told us that the landlord had his rights, and he could enter upon demand if he believed there was something wrong. I didn’t believe them for at least three reasons:
First, curiously enough, we had just heard of a situation where the police used deception to gain unlawful entry into someone’s home, so with that in mind, we reacted accordingly long enough to frustrate the police at Mike’s door.
Second, Mike was the principal renter there. Did he not have rights?
Finally, we didn’t have the faintest idea of any crime committed or of anything that could even be suspected as a crime or offence. All we knew was that Theresa wanted us out.
They threatened us with charges, so we let them in, and Theresa came in with them. The police attitudinally treated Marilyn and me as trespassers and criminals. They shouted at us and wouldn’t listen to anything we had to ask or say. I tried to ask them what we had done wrong, and if they knew that we had been invited into the home, having permission to be there. They wouldn’t listen and didn’t care.
Mike remained silent throughout, as though he was some sort of captive victim, yet he continued to act the pious Christian. Theresa immediately openly rebuked him for how he acted so spiritual and pious in our presence, yet was an entirely different person at all other times. “Why don’t you let them see the real Mike?” she chided.
One officer then told Theresa to command us to leave. Sheepishly, immaturely, with subdued voice, without looking at us, she said, “Victor and Marilyn, leave my home.” It was apparent she said it with guilt and embarrassment, not with conviction.
I thought, “How can this be? How is it Mike lives here, wants us to stay, his wife also lives here, wants us to leave, and she gets her way?” I don’t know why, but the police and the landlord soon left, without seeing us gone. It was very strange. We headed downstairs and prayed, packing while we were praying, and wondering what would be the right thing to do, especially when suddenly remembering the Lord had told us to stick it out to the end, though it would be rough. What did the end look like?
As we were praying, we heard a shout upstairs. It was Mike’s mother-in-law. She demanded that Mike evict us immediately. She opened the door and left it open until we passed through it. Mike remained neutral, afraid and indecisive, not knowing what to do. While we hesitated, she now threatened to take our houseplants and throw them out. That little matter persuaded me to cave. Marilyn and I decided to come upstairs with our packed suitcases. I told Mike that we didn’t want any more trouble and were leaving.
The mother-in-law left as we loaded everything in the trailer. Then another curious thing happened. Theresa came out, confessing that she didn’t know what got into her. She didn’t know why she did what she did. She asked me to pray for her, which I did, but I did so cautiously and conditionally – I don’t recall specifically what I prayed.
They asked us where we would go from there, and I honestly told them we had no idea. Mike offered us something like seven dollars for expenses, which I believe I turned down, saying we would be okay; the Lord would provide.
As we drove away, the realization hit me that Mike hadn’t been required to make a public declarative decision. I made it easy, too easy, for him. I had caved over a few miserable houseplants. He was spared the clear exposure. I was sickened by the thought. I had disobeyed the Lord, Who said to me, “It is going to get rough, but stick it out to the end.”
There was my love of mammon in the fore once more. I resolved I wouldn’t let this happen again, though I knew I could fail at any time and only the Lord could make things happen as they should.
I must keep in mind: Had we known where we were going or why when we came to the Trepanier home? Did the Word I heard from God when we got there not come to pass within a day or two?
Who says there is no God?
Marilyn soon had a vision of Mike. She saw him inside their home, looking out the window. Straddling the house was a giant spider. Mike was trapped in the house. He was dismayed and confounded. He had made pretence of worshipping the Lord fervently, and I had been very frustrated with him in years past, unable to do anything about the hypocrisy I saw. This event settled that.
I was now realizing what Paul must have been seeing in him the year before.
Now where do we go? It was nearing the end of October 1981, and winter was closing in. Our money was running out and we had no job prospects. We decided to pay the Beals a visit.
We arrived there on a Sunday. They were now caretakers of an apartment block and living in a two-bedroom suite. When we arrived there, they seemed quite receptive to us and were willing to put us up for a time. Perhaps they remembered our putting them up for three weeks, less than two years before?
The last time they saw us, Paul was kidnapped, and we were fleeing for our lives. We told them about our trip, our visits with Paul, how he was doing, and of our just having been evicted from the Trepaniers’.
That evening, Art Beals’ cousin paid them a visit. She had attended the United Church service that day. Neil and Cathy Wiebe also came by, dressed in their Sunday best. The first thing Neil said to me, while shaking hands, was, “Hey! Where’s your suit? Weren’t you at church today?”
I thought it a strange question. After not seeing each other for years, was that the best he could do? Besides, we were never known to him as being in the habit of going to church, and when we did attend with them, I never wore a suit, not that he necessarily would have noticed or remembered. It was simply a light and playful remark, yet significant….
As they visited, the Wiebes and Art’s cousin discussed that day’s Sunday school lessons. As it turned out, the United Church program was identical to that of the Mennonite Church Neil and Cathy were attending.
I thought, “Here we have a highly liberal, nominal Christian church (the United), watered down in doctrine and practice, with identical Sunday school materials to that of an evangelical Mennonite church.” Unlike the dead, compromising United Church, the Mennonite church was formed during deadly persecution centuries earlier by the tyrannical nominal Christian denomination, the Roman Catholic Church. Whereas there once seemed to be life with early Mennonites, now it was as dead as the obvious dead. As the Lord revealed to me days after receiving His Spirit, these nominal churches in their essence are all alike.
(By the way, the Roman Church calls itself the “Mother Church” of all Protestant denominations. Rome is on factual historical record to have slaughtered its “wayward children” by the hundreds of thousands and millions. What kind of mother does that to her children, albeit misbehaving ones? I ask you.)
And then it struck me. The first vision I had in the Beals’ home, over six years earlier, of the Wiebes, was this night fulfilled! There were the Beals, not in the church systems, and there were the Wiebes in the church systems, though Art and many others had been calling them out of formal religion, and they wouldn’t come out. (I knew that Cathy was the ruling power in the Wiebe household.)
I suddenly had another realization. The second vision I had at Art’s years ago had appeared on the heels of the first. If the first was now fulfilled, surely the second vision’s fulfillment was close at hand. The second vision was of me, as a lamb, being slain by Satan on an altar before the Lord. There was Dave Cohen out to kill me, as the Lord had warned, and there we were, back in the very city from which the Lord had commanded us to flee. “Uh oh!” I thought, “I am about to be killed! By vision, the Lord had told me that!”
I was now concerned, though I wasn’t frightened so much as anxious. “Is this now my time?” I asked the Lord.
I thought, “Surely God has much more in store for us than the life we had lived so far.” I had to come to terms, however, with what seemed the likelihood of my being taken from the earth. I concluded, “If it’s my time, so be it. I only hope I’ll be faithful.”
My consolation was that, according to the vision, the event was pleasing to the Lord. “Then that’s the way it will be,” I thought.
When the company left, Art and Doreen made arrangements for us to sleep on the living room floor. Our trailer was in the block parking lot, and we had brought all our plants inside. I believe I told the Beals what I had realized in the visit with their guests and what could be expected in terms of the fulfillment of the second vision, perhaps a sudden and unwanted visit from Dave Cohen.
(Theresa Trepanier had been frightened when I related what was happening in our lives, driving her to expel us from their home. Would this be the Beals’ reaction as well?)